Thursday, July 30, 2009

Model sentence (The Micah Mandate)

Thought it would be good to highlight again a website I support - The Micah Mandate. Lots of helpful thought provoking articles and links there.

The Micah Mandate is a Christian-based public interest advocacy ministry that seeks a transformation of our nation through justice, mercy and humility. The Micah Mandate's webzine is updated every Monday.
He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly before your God.
- Micah 6:8


Here's a sample from the every young Peter Young ... Model Sentence, under Peter's Pithy Pointers.

Unfortunately, ‘MODEL SENTENCE’ does not refer to English grammar! Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor, 32, a part-time model pleaded guilty to consuming beer at the Cherating Bay Lounge of the Legend Hotel in Cherating at 11.40pm on July 11th. She was charged under Section 136 of the Pahang Administration of the Islam Law and Malay Custom Enactment. The Syariah High Court in Kuantan fined her RM5, 000 and ordered her whipped 6 times.

She has not appealed against the sentence and has already paid the RM5, 000 fine.

If she is given 6 strokes of the rotan, she would be the first Muslim woman to be caned under Section 136 of the Enactment mentioned above – 1Malaysia!!

The government would do well to consider carefully the views of Amnesty International. “Caning and whipping always constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment which is prohibited under international law which is provided for under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

She said, “I will accept this earthly punishment. Let Allah decide my punishment in the hereafter. For now, the court has yet to tell me when the sentence will be carried out, so I would like to ask them to hasten it.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To use or not to use video clips in sermons

A quick blog post and back to work ... why the "need"? Because it is something I am wrestling with ...

Saw this headline on Out or Ur: John Piper says video hurts preaching

Everyone knows that John Piper believes in the supremacy of preaching, but what about augmenting the spoken word with video clips or dramas? In this short video Piper answers that question. Here's an excerpt:

"I think the use of video and drama largely is a token of unbelief in the power of preaching. And I think that, to the degree that pastors begin to supplement their preaching with this entertaining spice to help people stay with them and be moved and get helped, it's going to backfire.... It's going to communicate that preaching is weak, preaching doesn't save, preaching doesn't hold, but entertainment does."

Piper concludes as only he can--by making light of the issue with laughter while still invoking the possibility of eternal damnation. He says:

"Nobody is going to go to hell because of this...in the short run."

In front of me right now is a letter from CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) asking me to register for a Church Video License. I got it last week but am not even sure I want to bring it up to my church leadership. (I asked them what they thought of it last year, and we decided not to get a license and add on to the fees we pay for our use of Chrtistian songs in worship.

Here's the letter ....

Kelston Community Church
Paul Long
_______
_________

15 July 2009 New Zealand

Dear Church Representative,

Have you considered using film clips in your sermons to illustrate a point?

I recently saw a film clip where a monkey gets stuck in a lift in an exclusive hotel with a full fruit basket. The outcome is hilarious, and I talked about this film to friends for days afterward.
Incredibly funny films come along once in a very long time - you know, the ones that keep you chuckling for days? Try as you might, you just can't explain the situation to others and make it as funny as it actually was in the film, so you end the conversation with "You'll just have to see it for yourself!"

Film clips today are being used extensively to illustrate a message or highlight a teaching point and can be remember long after just verbally telling it. Why not show a few of those films to your congregation this year?

Over 23% of all churches registered with CCLI currently hold a Church Video Licence, enabling them to show movies for congregational fellowship events, women's and youth ministry outreach events, and in their children's programs but to name a few uses. They also have access to Screenvue.com a database of illustrations showing how to use film clips in sermons and talks.

Consider joining those churches that have discovered the convenience of having a Church Video Licence and the benefits of Screenvue.com. For one low annual payment the Church Video Licence gives you access to thousands of films across a variety of genres. Complete and send the application form on the reverse of this letter along with payment to start using films legally within days.

When churches come together under a group licence, CVLI can offer discounts on annual licence fees. If you are interested in the Church Video Licence, why don't you give our office a ring to find out if there is a group licence your church is eligible to join? Group licenses are also available for our other licensing schemes, too.

You can ring our office on ________________and one of our friendly customer service representatives will be more than happy to answer any questions about the Church Video License and group licensing that you may have.

Yours sincerely

M_____________
Managing Director Asia Pacific Region



Why my hesitation? What's my struggle? First is whether this is money well spent. Second is whether it is something I want to do. Will this really help my congregation? Will it be something that will end up being expected? Is it as John Piper puts it "a token of unbelief in the power of preaching?"
Or is it just a comfort zone thing or my older age (yup getting older) idiosyncrasies just acting up where I am not ready to adapt to a new cultural setting?

Ah many questions ....

BTW, I have used youtube videos before (worship) as have others and some speakers have used film clips (free usage promotional ones like the "Amazing Grace" movie). I am for using creative art forms in worship and evangelism. I have been involved in acting in skits and even a long (over an hour) evangelistic drama ..., I enjoy using "object lessons" and of course I am a "Gospel Entertainer" ... but then again, there seems to me to be something "sacred" about the proclamation of the Word via preaching.

Have I already "compromised" by my use of ppt? I wonder what Jesus or Paul would have done if they walked this earth in this 21st century.

Malaysian Allah debate in Christianity Today

The Malaysian "Allah" debate has made the news in Christianity Today. ...

What's in a Name?
Christians in Southeast Asia debate their right to refer to God as Allah.
Susan Wunderink | posted 7/28/2009 08:52AM

Agnes Monica is the Miley Cyrus of Southeast Asia. The Indonesian teen singer's face is ubiquitous. Her performances are packed out. But in Selangor, Malaysia, no one is allowed to play her song "Allah Peduli" ("God Cares"). Monica is a Christian, and Malaysian law bans non-Muslims from referring to God as Allah.

The ban on "God Cares" is one application of state laws widely opposed by the island nation's Christians and other non-Muslims. Few question whether Allah is the God of the Bible—to Malaysian Christians, Allah is simply the word for God.

The decades-old state laws have gained recent prominence through The Herald, the national Catholic newspaper. Beginning in 1998, Malaysia's Ministry of Home Affairs has sent letters to editor and priest Lawrence Andrew asking him to cease using Allah in the paper's Malay edition. In 2007, the government threatened to ban the newspaper. Thus began a long legal battle, with government representatives issuing conflicting orders and the paper suing to both publish in Malay and continue its use of the theonym.

The newspaper acquired a printing permit for 2009. But on May 28, the church lost its suit to legally use Allah. A high court hearing that began July 7 should resolve the newspaper's legal status.

Perhaps in anticipation of another unfavorable ruling, the Indonesian organization Yayasan Lentera Bangsa has published a new translation of the Bible in Indonesian. Allah does not appear in the Kitab Suci Indonesian Literal Translation (KS-ILT). Instead, the publishers transliterated Hebrew terms (such as Elohim) and substituted some less-common Indonesian names for God.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My favourite NZ radio station


Just found out that I can listen to Coast, my favourite NZ Radio station online. Nice :-)

The importance of spending more time in the Bible and theology (Pastor's Notes)

Just posted up my latest edition of Pastor's Notes. It's related to "Theological Sunday" - it's a local church thing - a Sunday our church leadership decided upon last year to emphasize the importance of Bible and theology.

Two "First they came" videos

It is good that this poem is getting new life via youtube. Two versions that were brought to my attention. One from Sivin's blog and the other from Teresa Kok's blog. Thanks!!

Based on the original First they came poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984).



Malaysian version ....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Quick stuff on Consumer Christianity

Out of Ur is sponsoring an interesting contest. Took an excerpt from the post on the context below, but go to the website blog for the full details. I won't be entering but it is an interesting subject that I have been thinking about on and off for a long time.

Too tired to write out some of my thoughts but thought it would be of benefit to post some of the points brought up last Sunday on the subject by my church's guest speaker which I thought was spot on and food for thought. The speaker was Dr. Rod Edwards. He's a former BCNZ CE lecturer, (now Laidlaw College). He's now with a Brethren based Bible Institute helping them develop in a unique way.

First the Out of Ur excerpt ...

In keeping with that theme, Out of Ur is sponsoring a contest to see whether Urbanites can spot Consumer Christianity when they see it. Here's how it works:

1. Write a working definition of "Consumer Christianity" in 100 words or less AND/OR send a photograph that captures the essence of Consumer Christianity. (Extra points will be awarded for entries Url Scaramanga finds original, funny, or so insightful it makes him stop and say, "Hmmm".)

2. Email your definition/photo to Url at: Url@christianitytoday.com.

3. Include your name and mailing address.

4. The best entries will be posted on Out of Ur and Url will select 50 winners to receive free copies of The Divine Commodity.

Now Rod's notes which is just point two of his six points on the topic I asked him to speak on "Challenges facing the NZ church". Amazing how much he squeezed in and with such clarity and focus with his limited time. And he also spend the first half giving 6 "ancient challenges" that the early church faced based on Acts 11. One of the best sermons I have heard since I have been in NZ and I have heard many excellent and challenging sermons.

2. The Challenge of a Consumer Society Infecting Church

a. Consumerism seen in competing personal interests which influence:

i. Attendance
Becomes dispensable: “I’ll choose to come if it suits me.”

ii. Identity
Becomes individual, not corporate. “I” and not “we” is paramount.

iii. Loyalty
Becomes subject to other consumable products offered by other churches

iv. Belongingness
Becomes fragile/tentative and the idea of the “church as family” is lost. Inconsistent attendance diminishes the strength of attachment and rootedness into a fellowship.

v. Participation
Becomes optional with little sense of obligation and the attitude that, “The pastor should do this for me.”

vi. Response: Involvement. Example of young adult relations, Andrew & Julia, and their London identification with a smaller congregation where involvement is high. Challenge consumerism through relationship!

b. Consumerism in worship

i. Worship becomes something to “consume” – “I didn’t get anything out of the worship this morning.”

ii. “Spectator worship” is the norm and “What can you do for me?” rather than “What can I bring to God?”

iii. Response: Rather than a formulaic predictability (In earlier days: hymn, prayer, hymn, sermon, hymn, prayer. What is the one today?) is it possible to recapture the breadth of worship?

• Music. We live in a music saturated society (malls, buses, airports, MP3s, ipods, etc) so identify and capture music well, both ancient and modern, and with good theology! But in addition remember and use . . .

• Aesthetics

• Silence and contemplation

• Oral: liturgy (eg. as in a psalm), or congregational contributions (solicited or offered, prepared or spontaneous)

• Celebration

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quick questions / note on "politics"

Last night one of my Home groups finished the final study based on John Stott's DVD curriculum, The Bible and the Christian life. This title of the final session was "Making an Impact on Society". I could not help but think that what Stott had to say needs to be heard by many Christians in Malaysia (sorry if I sound judgmental).

And the context of this study is just general teachings that are foundational for Christians to understand, reflect and apply. In fact this was the simplest study in terms of terminology etc. Just a simple message based on Matthew 5:13-16 (salt and light). The three discussion questions that speak for themselves.

But before that, here's what Stott mentioned as six weapons in our Christian armoury.

1. Prayer
2. Evangelism
3. Example
4. Argument
5. Action
6. Suffering


Discussion and Reflection Questions


1. How in your everyday life do you live out the biblical truths that Christians are to be radically different than non-Christians, yet penetrate non-Christian society?

2. Stott says Christians must accept much of the blame for the darkness and rottenness of society, in part because too many of us pray to a “village God,” interested only in our own needs and not those of the world at large. Discuss this thought as well as ways we might become more “global” in our prayers.

3. Stott says Christians cannot perfect society but we can improve it. Discuss how Christian influence can hinder the spread of evil, perhaps as it relates to a specific societal ill, say criminal behavior or the lack of concern for the poor, homeless, or unemployed. How do you respond to Stott’s theory of Christian involvement in politics, not necessarily in the narrow sense of making laws, but in the broad sense of living in community and therefore being a responsible citizen? What does that mean in practical terms?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crossing the Road for One Another

Just posted up my latest Pastor's Notes. It's a reflection based on a Henri Nouwen quote (it's on the side bar) and also in conjunction with this Sunday' topic. Our speaker, who is the current director of Open Air Campaigners New Zealand , will be sharing on ... what else ... evangelism!

On Money (Fred Smith)

From the Breakfast with Fred e-list. Good practical reading especially in the light of the economic recession. I can identify with this post as I started married life (after exhausting most of my resources on 4 years full time study at the local seminary) with Under RM 1,000. Jennifer brought in no savings, having spent the few hundred she had on her wedding gown.

My father in law kindly agreed to take care of the traditionally required wedding dinner costs and collect the ang pows as we had no money to even book one table.

My father let me pay him RM 250 a month to use his old Daihatsu Charade until I paid up a set amount in a special interest free loan.

Our honeymoon was 2 nights at Cameon Highlands in a one bedroom apartment at Strawberry Park (courtesy of one of Jennifer's church members from her Bangsar church).

We re-started working life a couple of weeks after our wedding, and had to request an advance on my RM 1,000 salary as we would not have enough to pay our utility bills and run the car etc. Due to ministry expenses (no such thing as ministry allowance in those days), we were living on credit (i.e. alwasy just keeping up with my pay advance) for many years.

It is by the grace of God and good financial stewardship that today we have bought a small house (even if it is technically still the property of our bank) and am running two second hand cars (all paid for).

I did not seek to follow these "four principles" as I have never heard of them until today but they are pretty close to some that I have followed.... again by God's grace.

------------

Short, Sweet, and Powerful


Fred frequently mentioned the influence of books in his life. The Bible, My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers), and The Seeking Heart (Francois Fenelon) were spiritual favorites. This week’s thought is a short commentary on one of Fred’s favorite secular books.

One of the influential books in my life is quite short. It wasn’t weighty, nor did I struggle to understand it. But it formed the basis for my thinking on financial security -----and not only that, it gave me a modus operandi. Seeing as how Mary Alice and I went from total assets of $5.00 the day we married to a comfortable living, that makes the book worthwhile in my estimation. Oh, by the way, it was Mary Alice’s $5.00. I always told her, “If you had wanted more money when we married, you should have saved more!”

What is this book? The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason.

Any book, to be helpful, must come when it is needed ---- just like mentors, and sponsors. This book came just at the right time. It is actually more of a pamphlet than a book ---- only a few pages with four principles which I followed. I benefitted by following them; others found misfortune by ignoring them.

The book is a story, more of a parable. I have always thought parables were an excellent way to slip truth into the heart. Jesus used them masterfully. In this story, a man tells the secret of riches to a poor printer’s laborer in exchange for an all-night effort to produce a much-needed printing project. At first, the poor man felt cheated – the advice was so simple. However, the workman followed it and even though making some early mistakes, found the way to financial success.

Even today when I think about the four principles, I blush at their simplicity. We want life to be complex and complicated. However, when I, like the poor laborer, follow them, I find financial security.

We expect detailed plans and intricate strategies. Even in the Bible, we find the simple commands received with skepticism. For example, “Dip in the river” was sufficient. But, our egos often don’t allow us to accept simple truths.

Following truth is more rare than knowing truth.

Here are the four principles. I followed them, just as did the poor man in Babylon:

1. At least 10% of all you make is yours to keep ---- pay yourself first.

2. Never invest with an amateur – he is prey to the shrewd.

3. Reinvest the interest you earn from all you save. “Don’t eat up your grandchildren” is how Clason puts it.

4. Desire to acquire wealth through knowledge and association – gain knowledge of the ways of money and associate with those who are wisely accumulating.

I found these principles moral. They violate no one’s integrity. Desiring money is not wrong. It is honorable so long as one seeks money as a means to noble accomplishments, not to greed and self-aggrandizement.

For me, money is, and has always been, a trustworthy servant, but a tyrannical master.

This week think about: 1) What books influence my thinking? 2) How have I
developed a financial philosophy? 3) What advice would you give to a younger person about money?

Words of Wisdom: “Following truth is more rare than knowing truth.”

Wisdom from the Word: “Plans failwhen there is no counsel, but with abundant advisers they are established.” (Proverbs 15:22 NET Bible)

__________________________

Do you have comments or thoughts about this week's Weekly Thought?
Share them in our discussion forum on Facebook.com

To read more writings of Fred Smith go to www.breakfastwithfred.com

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Internet Tag games

I'm feeling tired and my head hurts. I'm not really sick and I got as lot done today etc so it's a little strange. Maybe it's related to sickenss related to Malaysian politics?

Finished the Romans 1-4 Bible study booklet today so that's nice. And in 20 minutes my boys should be back from school and I have to take them home and bring asome of the school boys to the TT stadium.

So something light in 20 minutes and I thought ... why not have fun with one of those tag games. Tagged by Z ... Okay here goes.

A - Age: 46

B - Bed size: Queen

C - Chore you hate: Weeding / Lawn maintenance

D - Dog's name: no dog *sigh* Used to have dogs though ...

E - Essential start your day: a cup of tea And if weekday the Breakfast Show?

F- Favorite color: Maroon

G - Gold or Silver: Gold

H - Height: 5 foot 10.5 inches (could not make the 11 inch mark :-))

I - Instruments you play(ed): Guitar, ukulele, egg shaker (it's pretty nice!), a little harmonica ... lots to learn and no time *sigh*

J - Job title: Pastor (finally no longer "full time worker! :-))

K - Kid(s): Two (as in children not goats!)

L - Living arrangements: Share a room with my wife where we have to squeeze while the boys have their own rooms of roughly similar size! Where's the justice? :-)

M - Mom's name: Betty

N - Nicknames: Uncle Paul? Unc Paul? The rest are childhood to early twenties nicknames that don't count anymore ... some are interesting though ... like "Hantu Polong"

O - Overnight hospital: Yes. For heat stroke and migraine

P - Pet Peeves: lack of punctuality and blatant procrastination despite agreeing to do something

Q - Quote from a movie: "I'll be back!"

R - Right or left handed: Right.

S - Siblings: two.

T - Time you wake up: 7.15 AM or if summer, then much too early because it gets very bright so early

V - Vegetable you dislike: Brussels sprouts and peas that are still in their shells

W - Ways you run late: When the boys are not on time! (which is far too often)

X - X-rays you've had: teeth, chest (for medical reports) and CT scans on my brain!

Y - Yummy food you make: Lamb curry, steak, roast pork, fruit smoothies, ikan billis sambal... and now stir fried Hokkien Mee

Z - Zoo favorite: Tigers (they are so cool) .. nah, baboons - more fun to watch!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I cannot be neutral about issues of morality (Goh Keat Peng)

A strong stand from Goh Keat Peng has been reposted below. Check out his blog and the comments posted. But first my quick thoughts.

I know that politics and religion are two big taboo areas for most of us. As a rule of thumb, I try to remain neutral in issues of politics as I know too well that many political issues are not clearly black or white but various shades of grey. Because of this I can with good conscious get along with others who hold different political views from me as there is much room for me to agree to disagree. It's also my theological position and understanding. I can have close friends or have great respect others who come from different theological persuasions (within the Christian church) and even people from different religious beliefs. I may strongly disagree but can consistently still have respect for divergent views and convictions.

I believe I can do this consistently if those I disagree with share a few common principles / values. Some that come off the top of my head are things like: Justice and fairness, honesty and sincerity, common courtesy and attempts at being consistent.

Of course I do understand that for some people, deception (the means justice the end result) is part and parcel of their "sincere consistency" and worldview and so they have no qualms in changing the rules as and when they please. I am not so naive to think that sincerity equals truth, or that having common courtesy equals trustworthiness. That's another issue.

But I guess the point for me is that there are some things that should be beyond politics. There are some things that we cannot remain neutral about. There are some things that all human beings irregardless of race, gender, nationality, political leanings or religious beliefs should unite together.

I do not think it is time to argue whether some are making a big deal about this Teoh Beng Hock's death only because he belonged to a certain race or political party. I do not think it is the time to question why a death of someone like Kugan (an Indian) was not enough to spur many to action. I do not even think it is the time to look at the Malaysian Church's general past record of political apathy and closing an eye to questionable political decisions. The past is the past. What is more important is the present and the future.

Rather I think it is the time for some concrete united positive action. And I am thinking of action by the Malaysian church as a whole. Not just another carefully worded letter / memorandum of protest or concern sent to the PM or insipid stuff like that. It's obvious that that has no effect.

At the very least, there could be a nation wide call for a day of fasting and prayer. No matter what denomination or theological leanings, surely this is the least that can be agreed on and be acceptable to all.

Christians should actually attend and pray so the nation can see the numbers. If I remember correctly, statistically there are more Christians than Indians in Malaysia. How nice it would be if the nation sees Christians uniting for the sake of the Nation (and not ourselves ...)

And I hope that the organizers cut down the hype and not allow certain VIP Christians to use it for political mileage. Perhaps it is time for many of the "old guard" to step aside and let some of the younger generation of leaders take the stage. (I sometimes think too many prayer meetings waste time giving the stage to "anointed speakers" and "anointed worship" to "create" the atmosphere rather than allowing time for actual prayer).

--------------

Okay here's Keat Peng's piece ....

As a Christian, I cannot keep to my seat, or shut my mouth and stay neutral over issues of morality.

So I emerge today from my several months of silence and non-involvement to say that what transpired yesterday is immoral, unacceptable and unconscionable.

Why was a witness being held for questioning for ten hours and only released at 3.45am? What kind of case is it and what is the urgency of the case in question that the witness had to be deprived of sleep and forcibly kept awake till 3.45am? Was the nation deemed to be in grave danger had the witness in question been sent home at a respectable time and asked to report again for questioning the next morning? The nation could endure long years of waiting over so many other much longer pending cases involving so much more public money and have much greater weight in public interest but this particular case could not wait for the next morning when the witness in question would have been fresher and better rested? What kind of interrogation was he subjected to on the fateful night without end? Why was it that a witness had to be isolated from his lawyer and forced to be in the sole company of officers with no other neutral person/s present? Because he was in the sole company of officers who were interrogating him, how would his side of the story be ever told? And how would, why should the officers in question be trusted when they tell the nation what actually transpired during that fateful night the witness lost his life? There were no other witness/es present so how would these officers in question clear their own involvement or clear their own names in this sad story?

Isn’t it true that a medical doctor should carry out the examination of a patient of the opposite sex in the presence of at least one other person? This is a wise procedure so that should any allegation of wrongful conduct be raised against him or her, the doctor would have some neutral testimony to defend him or her.

There have been too many instances of contravention against natural justice in this country involving the agencies and instruments of state. There have been too many victims. The neutrality of these instruments of state is questionable.

I CANNOT REMAIN NEUTRAL ABOUT ISSUES OF MORALITY.

This is not about partisan politics. I expect my friends from both sides of the parliamentary divide to speak up. I expect to hear from all political parties and all who hold public office at all levels to speak up. I want especially to hear from Maximus Ongkili, Bernard Dompok, Lee Hwa Beng, Loh Seng Kok who publicly profess the Christian Faith to speak up.

I expect the churches and the church leadership to speak up including those I know personally such as Hwa Yung, Ng Moon Hing and many others.

Of course all of the above persons should state their own views and even fault my manner of speaking or reasoning. But silence is not an option. Leaders do not have the option of keeping their opinion to themselves. They must lend their voices to voices which have been silenced.

A young life has been lost on the very eve of his wedding. Siblings, parents, colleagues and a fiance are in inconsolable grief. WHY SO? WHO WILL BE NEXT?

Friday, July 17, 2009

On the lighter note ramblings ... mid July 09

On a lighter note, it has been a more relaxed week. No preaching this Sunday and with no Wednesday Home group or Thursday night games I had two extra night frees.

Wednesday was Jennifer's birthday so I cooked her favourite dish - Hokkien Mee (black version with large noodles - not the "Har Meen" version). First time I cooked it too and it turned out great. I wisely had four packets of noodles and divided all my ingredients into four so I could cook it a batch at a time. It's always nicer when the portions are smaller so they mix and blend well. Also I can taste the subtle differences with each batch and adjust and learn from any mistakes of the previous batch. I forgot to take a picture of it. Will do next time. Pretty fast too except for the early stage when I made my "chee yau char". Had to cook on low heat for quite a while to get it really crispy and not burnt. Mmmmm.....

Found an old friend, Andre on facebook ... but not only due to another old friend letting me know they met up and he was looking for me and was on facebook. Haven't seen Andre in probably more than 20 years .. perhaps 25 years. We were good buddies in lower secondary school and then after his Form 3 he left for the USA (and he is still there and from what I have found out a very successful person on the technology industry). What was more exciting for me is to find out about his strong commitment to Christ.

Bought 4 more plastic crates (sale on again ... getting to be like Malaysia where there is a sale very other week!) But here the sales are genuine not marked up and reduced to make it look like a sale. Anyway the crates are to help me slowly reorganize my pile of books in the office. In December last year I bought 6 small shelves (the screw on the sides type) and 2 plastic crates but that was insufficient. A few months back I bought 4 more crates but that was still insufficient and messy. Hopefully I will be able to organize my books and resources little better over the next month or so (slow and steady when I need a break from heavy brain work). Thank God for a large office!!

Took yesterday off to spend some time with my youngest son. Ended up doing some visitation in the morning while my boys were having their hair cuts. Finally! The look so messy. If they were in Malaysia, the prefects would have given them a crew cut :-) But after that we went to see a movie. Not the latest Harry Potter movie as I promised my wife I would see that with her. We went to see Transformers 2: The Revenge of the Fallen. The movie plot was pretty pathetic ... but I expected it. After all it started off as a toy! But the special effects was nice. Amazing what today's computer graphic programmes can do.

After the movie I got myself an early Christmas present. I have been wanting this item for over 2 years now. Every year I talk about it quite a bit and say "that is what i want to buy for my Christmas present" but the last 2 Christmas periods I could not bring myself to spend the money and kept saying "let's see if the price drops to under $300 first." It reached $299 and I still thought that was too high. It dropped to $269 with a free 2009 upgrade so I finally decided to splurge on it.... I got a Navman GPS for my car - the classic S35 series (the cheapest model but I like it very much). Tried it out driving to work today. Not that I needed directions but to get used to the feel. Nice :-) Will be trying it out again tonight as I pick up 2 different people in 2 different areas for a Home group meeting.

And we also bought a new pair of sports shoes each. $18 each. Pity my son (not really! LOL) but I refused to buy the $30-40 shoes. He had to experience again how his "strange" father shops. I saw the ad for a sale of $18 shoes at K-Mart. So I cut out the ad from the flyer and stuck it in my jacket pocket. Then I enter the shop and ahead straight for the $18 items, choose a pair, try it on and then head out the shop. I will not even consider the other shoes of a higher prize range. Told him that he either got a $18 pair on me or he could save up and buy a more expensive pair. Smart boy got a free pair of shoes. :-)

It's so nice too that Prime network is showing ENTERPRISE on TV. Discovered it by accident one afternoon. Now the VCD recorder is set on timer every afternoon to record the episodes. I was watching it on Malaysian TV until it suddenly got discontinued. Now I get to watch what I missed.

Last week I saw the final episode of Battlestar Gallactica. A little frustrated as I set the timer for an hour's show not realising it was a 2 hour finale. My wife realised this too late for me and so I saw the first hour, missed half an hour and caught the last half an hour. The ending was pretty anti climatic for me. I think missing a huge chunk contributed to it. :-(

Rest of today looks relaxed and fun. Basically working on preparing new Bible study materials for a home group and youth group. It is nice to be a little ahead of time.

Death of DAP political aide

There had better not be any attempts at a cover up! This is highly suspicious.

-----
From the Malysian Insider.

SHAH ALAM, July 16 – The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) controversial probe into several DAP assemblymen’s activities was thrown into more turmoil today with the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock at the anti-graft authority’s Selangor headquarters. Click here to read the story ....

Read RPK's version on this here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

7 pakatan assembly men under anti-corruption probe

This reeks of political discrimination. There is no way someone like Dr. Cheah Wing Yin is corrupt. I have known him for a long time. He has personally sacrificed so much because he loves his country. He could be "minding his own business" and spending time in his medical practice making the big bucks.

He does not need politics to become rich unlike other clearly corrupt politicians. The fact is, being in politics has made him significantly poorer financially. For as long as I have known him, he has spent much of his time and money helping others. And he has been doing this for years - long before he stood for elections and became an MP.


Taken from Malaysian Insider
Wed July 15
By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

SHAH ALAM, July 13 – Pakatan Rakyat (PR) today claimed that seven of its assemblymen are under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over the allocation of funds to schools, mosques and community associations.

The assemblymen are Teresa Kok (Kinrara), Ean Yong Hian Wah (Sri Kembangan), Dr Cheah Wing Yin (Damansara Utama), Elizabeth Wong (Bukit Lanjan), Hannah Yeoh (Subang Jaya), Lau Weng San (Kampung Tunku) and Edward Lee (Bukit Gasing).

Teresa Kok told reporters at the state legislature that the MACC confiscated the seven assemblymen’s files on the state’s allocation fund from the district office two weeks ago.

The seven assemblymen are now asking why the MACC were only targeting them and are wondering if there was any racial discrimination or because they are from PR.

“In my case, I donated RM10,000 to a surau in Puchong but now the imam and the mosque’s working committee have been interrogated by MACC officers for several hours two days ago. They will come and interrogate them again tonight

“We are only fulfilling our responsibilities but why are we being reprimanded by the MACC and why only the seven of us. Is it because we are Chinese?” Teresa told reporters in the state assembly’s hall.

Wong, who was also at the press conference, added that the action by the MACC was purely a scare tactic.

She said she lodge a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Wong also claimed that when Barisan Nasional assemblymen lost in the 12th general election, the assemblymen spent RM500,00 in two months but the MACC had yet to take any action.

Kok was angry that MACC “misusing their powers to threaten and scare Malaysians.”

“They are really scared. Just because they receive allocation for the state government from Pakatan assemblyman, they have to be interrogated for several hours? What is MACC’s motive? I give money to the mosque, so must they conduct interrogation on this?” Teresa added.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pastor's Notes (Bible Sunday NZ)

Just posted up my latest Pastor's Notes. It's related to Bible Sunday.

Here's the link to Bible Society of New Zealand.

HOW HEAVY IS YOUR BURDEN? (Spiritual formation on the run)


I have been wanting to blog on chapter 21, Renovation of the Soul for a long time but there's too many questions and issues that first need to be "resolved". So here's chapter 23 instead ... though it was / is not exactly an easier chapter to reflect on.

First the chapter, then some of my reflections / ramblings.

HOW HEAVY IS YOUR BURDEN?

There is an old story about three men and their sacks. Each man had two sacks, one tied in front of his neck and the other on his back. When the first man was asked what was in his sacks, he said, "In the sack on my back are all the good things friends and family have done. That way they are hidden from view. In the front sack are all the bad things that have happened to me. Every now and then I stop, open the front sack, take the things out, examine them, and think about them." Because he stopped so often to concentrate on all the bad stuff, he did not make much progress in life.

The second man was asked about his sacks. He replied, "In the sack in front are all the good things I have done. I like to see them, so quite often I take them out to show them off to people. The sack in the back? I keep all my mistakes in there and carry them all the time. Sure they are heavy. They slow me down but you know, for some reason, I cannot put them down."

When the third man was asked about his sacks, he answered, "The sack in front is great. There I keep all the positive thoughts I have about people; all the blessings I have experienced; all the great things other people have done for me. The weight is not a problem. The sack is like the sails of a ship. It keeps me going forward. The sack on my back is empty. I cut a big hole at the bottom, and put in all the bad things that I can think of about myself or hear about others. They go in one end and out the other, so I am not carrying around any extra weight at all."

What we carry around affects our spiritual life. The writer of Hebrews used the metaphor of a runner to illustrate the spiritual life. Living the spiritual life is like running a race. We cannot imagine a marathon runner running with a sack on his or her back. That will hinder the running. A runner will do everything he can to reduce the excess weight. The writer of Hebrews advised us to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" in order to run the race (Hebrews 12:1).

Unfortunately, many of us are like the first man. We keep before our eyes all the bad and horrible things that have happened to us - our poor relationships with others, our bad experiences and unfulfilled expectations in church, and the horrible events that have scarred our lives. What is out of sight is out of mind. We do not remember the good that others have done for us. Our focus is on the bad things that crowd our thoughts, causing anger and bitterness. It is hard to run forward when there is so much negative emotional burden. The heaviness of these burdens causes some of us to drop out of the race, like those marathon runners falling by the roadside. Once down, we are contented to stay down and refuse to get up. Others leave the church, not realising that they are bringing their sacks with them. Still others seek spiritual growth yet do not bear fruit and make progress because their souls are being poisoned by bitterness and unforgiveness.

The second man keeps his achievements and the things that make him feel good in front of him. He revels in his accomplishments, his wealth, his fame, and in his sacrificial service for the church. He always reminds others of his contribution to the church, and the favours he has done for people. He turns a blind eye to his mistakes, his imperfections, his idolatry, and his pride. All these he throws into the sack behind him so that he does not see them. Unfortunately, what the eye does not see remains in the subconscious. The prick of conscience is a constant thorn in his side and the sacks remain heavy. Such people need great effort to run. Some can hardly walk. Every step is a struggle because of the weight they carry.

The third man fills his front sack with positive thoughts, gratitude and appreciation for people around him, and the blessings he has received. As for the gossip, slander and bad experiences, he forgives and forgets. He throws them into the sack on his back that has a big hole at the bottom. The back sack is empty, and he is freed from bitterness, hatred and anger. He feels only the goodness of this life and the blessings of God. All these make his sack act as a sail. The Holy Spirit, who is like the wind, blows at the sail and helps him forward as he runs the race. Running the spiritual race is so much easier if we get rid of bitterness, unforgiveness and anger. That is what Jesus is helping us to do when He offers us His yoke. Many of us are running like the first or second man. Our sacks are heavy with our burdens and they wear us out. Jesus offered, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Being yoked with Jesus is like the third man. He is like Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner in the movie, Chariots of Fire, who said, "God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." For Eric Liddell, however, the Olympics were not the ultimate race. The son of Scottish missionaries to China, he saw his whole life as a race: a race for the kingdom of heaven. That is why two years after taking the Olympic gold, he sailed to China to become a missionary himself.

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I like good stories. And this one about the three men and their sacks is an old but beautiful one. The telling and interpretation of the story has not always been the same. But that's nice too and another story for another time.... I like Alex's "interpretation" as it pretty much says what needs to be said.

It speaks to me because my mind tends to be over active. I tend to set high standards for myself and the mistakes I make tend to remain in my mind for far too long. I realise that I typically fall into the category of people that can get fixated on the one negative thing rather than the nine positive things. I think I have matured a lot in this area over the years as the ratio is not so severe now. :-) But I really have to focus hard so I do not regress. I realise that I slipped back a bit when I could not sleep properly thinking of my upcoming "performance review" despite the fact that I had no reason to think there was anything negative. And even last week when I was asked over for lunch with a group of people to discuss some ministry concerns, I had strange dreams! Progress I think ... as at least this time I was able to sleep and just my subconscious mind acted up. :-)

How does one do that? I can think of no better advice that works than that given by the late Henri Nouwen. It came out of an interview transcript (early 80s). The context is about battling temptations but it sure applies to so many related things. I have no idea now of his original words as what he said has become so ingrained in me that it is now part of me. For the lecturers and academics out there ... all I can footnote is that I am indebted to him and that I first got the concept from him. :-)

Nouwen spoke about how many make the mistake of trying to fight temptation by focusing on fighting the temptation. We should rather focus on Jesus and how wonderful He is. When we focus on fighting the temptation, we are essentially thinking of the temptation and often it becomes stronger. But when we focus on something better than more wonderful (and what is more wonderful than Jesus!), then the temptation loses its allure. When you have the best, the second best is pretty unattractive.

In practical terms I make it a habit to regularly "count my blessings". Really helps in a myriad of ways. I also make it a habit to show appreciation to those around me who have been a blessing to others just like the "third man" in the story. It's a good attitude and habit and it does make life as a whole so much more brighter "for you and for me and the entire human race ..." oops, a line from a MJ song just "sang" into my mind... :-)

I agree that being yoked with Jesus is like the third man. I like Eugene Peterson's rendition of Matthew 11:28-30. My first introduction to the Message was through this verse read out years ago at a seminar

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S.

"Unenforced rhythms of grace".... I love that phrase and that's what I wish would become part of my life. Walking even skipping in rhythm with God's grace. Living free and lightly where "in with the good, out with the bad" comes as natural as breathing...

Okay got to go. Have a blessed day!

changes in NZ immigration laws

Changes give migrants some leeway

4:00AM Tuesday Jul 14, 2009
By Lincoln Tan
Changes to immigration policy will make it tougher for some migrant workers, and easier for others. Photo / Amos Chapple

photo: Amos Chapple

Changes to immigration policy will make it tougher for migrant workers thinking of coming to New Zealand, but will ease requirements for some who have lost their jobs and are already here.

Migrant workers who lose their jobs during the probationary 90-day period will not only get a further three months' visitors permit, but their children will also be allowed to continue schooling as domestic students.

However, those coming to NZ on a seasonal employment scheme can no longer support applications by their partner or dependent children to come here too.

As well, visas issued under the essential skills work policy will be limited to one year for lower-skilled workers.

The amendments will be effective from July 27, says Immigration NZ.

Richard Howard, chairman of the Association for Migration and Investment, said allowing applicants placed in this situation to have their children continue to attend school as domestic students, albeit for a limited time, "is the first policy sign we have seen of this Government considering the actual and practical impact on migrants and their families when faced with a job loss situation".

"The policy allows the children to at least maintain their schooling while their parents decide on the family's future."

The changes are a surprise even for migrant advocacy groups such as Migrante Aotearoa, which is running a campaign for Immigration NZ to grant a three-month extension to the permits of temporary migrant workers made redundant in the recession.

"We knew it was on the agenda for the proposed immigration bill, but I am totally surprised that it has already been adopted into policy," said the group's Dennis Maga.

"At last there is some common sense, but the policy changes have to go further to include those outside the probationary period - because the real problem is with the workers facing redundancies after having been here for years and years."

Many migrant workers made redundant while on a work-to-residence visa, and those who were victims of the Labour Department's removing 44 occupations from its skills-shortage list would not be eligible to apply for the three-month extension, Mr Maga said.

With the changes, Immigration NZ will be adding 19 occupations to the skilled list, including advertising manager, retirement village manager, radiation oncologist and first aid trainer.

The relaxing of rules comes at a time of soaring unemployment with the number on the unemployment benefit topping 50,000 - almost three times the number a year ago.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little supported the changes, saying the three-month permit was "minimal mitigation" for a practice that should not be there in the first place.

"I would argue that a worker in this situation should not be dismissed without good and sufficient reason. Amending immigration policy to accommodate such an unjust occurrence is minimal mitigation of the injustice, at least for migrant workers," said Mr Little, who is also president of the Labour Party.

"For a migrant worker who has come here on the offer of a job, and who has uprooted his or her family to take up the offer to then be subject to an arbitrary decision to dismiss is unconscionable and highlights the shortcoming of the dismissal law."

The Department of Labour, which oversees immigration, was unavailable for comment.

* Immigration policy amendments (effective July 27)

Temporary migrant workers dismissed within a 90-day trial period may be granted a further three months' temporary permit. Their partners and children may also be included in the application; dependent children qualify as domestic students.

Migrant workers on supplementary seasonal employment will no longer be eligible to support their partner and children for permits under visitor, student or work policies.

Visas issued under the essential skills work policy will be limited to one year for lower skilled workers.

19 occupations have been added to the skilled occupation list, including software tester, public relations manager, equipment hire manager, canvas goods fabricator and phlebotomist.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Catholics lodge report against Al Islam (Nut Graph)

Catholics lodge report against Al Islam

10 Jul 09 : 6.39PM

By Deborah Loh
deborahloh@thenutgraph.com

PETALING JAYA, 10 July 2009: The two Catholics who lodged a police report against the Al Islam magazine over an article in which the journalist took the holy communion wafer out of his mouth and photographed it, have started a peaceful protest campaign against the magazine.

Joachim Francis Xavier and Sundhagaran Stanley, from Penang, are asking Catholics to make individual police reports and to express dissatisfaction with the magazine's publisher through telephone calls or faxes.

"We are resolved not to allow anger to guide our actions and instead pray that these ignorant will be forgiven by Allah," they said. ....


Click here for the article.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ministry lessons from a Muslim

Now here's a very interesting article!
Taken from the Out of Ur website blog.

July 8, 2009

Ministry Lessons From a Muslim

His unexpected message to church leaders: fully embrace your Christian identity.

Eboo Patel is not the most likely seminary professor. His credentials are not the issue. Patel earned his doctorate from Oxford University, and he is a respected commentator on religion for The Washington Post and National Public Radio. He has spoken in venues across the world, including conferences for evangelical church leaders.

What makes Eboo Patel an unlikely seminary professor is that he is Muslim.

eboo.jpg

The editors of Leadership first encountered Patel at the 2008 Q Conference, where he challenged 500 Christian leaders to change the rules of interfaith dialogue. "Muslims and Christians might not fully agree on worldview," he said, "but we share a world." Patel spoke of his enduring friendships with a number of evangelicals and his desire to move beyond the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric that dominates Christian/Muslim interaction. While holding firmly to his belief in Islam, he also affirmed church leaders. "Even though it is not my tradition and my community," Patel wrote after the conference, "I believe deeply that this type of evangelical Christianity is one of the most positive forces on Earth."

We were intrigued, so we contacted Patel to talk more about the ramifications of increasing religious diversity in America, as well as his outsider's perspective of the church's response. Patel gave us more than we bargained for. He invited us to attend a class he was teaching on interfaith leadership at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.


Click here to read the rest of the article.

Focusing on important things in the midst of many distractions (Pastor's notes)

Just posted up my Pastor's Notes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I find Windows Vista a real pain ....

I find Windows Vista a real pain ....

Second time I am reinstalling ... as every time there is an update, things get messier and different programmes that use to work crash. Fixing problems really eats into my productivity. Right now I am working on both my notebook (running Win XP), my PC (Win Vista) ... while trying to reinstall my programmes (that are supposed to Vista compatible!)

----

Problem caused by Windows

This problem was caused by Windows, which was created by Microsoft Corporation.

There is no solution for this problem at this time. However, your computer might be missing updates that can help improve its stability and security.

Recommendation



Go online to check for and install Important updates.

  1. Click to go online to Windows Update:

    Windows Update

  2. In the left pane, click Check for updates. If any updates are found, click View available updates.

  3. Select all Important updates, and then click Install. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    Note
    If you have turned on automatic updating, you might not see any Important updates listed. If this is the case, the updates have already been downloaded to your computer.

Additional information

To learn more about updating your computer, read Windows Update: Frequently Asked Questions online at the Microsoft website.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Random news ...

In checking the news today and this was on top ... So just decided to compare what's news in Malaysia and New Zealand :-)

Coffee laced with Viagra in Kuala Lumpur

New 8:15AM Monday Jul 06, 2009

Malaysian authorities have confiscated 900 boxes of coffee laced with Viagra.

Health Ministry officials raided a company in Kuala Lumpur that marketed the coffee as an energy booster, the New Straits Times said. The report did not say whether the package labelled Viagra as an ingredient.

The report said the 900 confiscated boxes containing some 9000 coffee packets were worth more than 72,000 ringgit ($31,000).

Some of the Viagra-laced coffee had been distributed nationwide, it said.

Viagra is legal in Malaysia, but it requires a prescription.

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The most views story for thestaronline ...

Updated: Sunday July 5, 2009 MYT 5:28:56 PM

Manohara: Kelantan prince files demand for RM1mil, her return

By SYED AZHAR


KOTA BARU: Tengku Temenggong Muhammad Fakhry Sultan Ismail Petra filed two applications at the Kelantan Syariah High and Lower courts here on Sunday demanding the return of nearly RM1mil from his wife Cik Puan Temenggong Manohara Odelia Pinot and her return.

In the affidavit filed by Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar and Abdul Halim Bahari on behalf of Tengku Muhammad Fakhry before Syariah High Court registrar Abu Bakar Abdullah Kutty, he claimed that before he married Manohara, she and her mother Daisy Farajina, had borrowed money from him totaling RM338,500 including a Swiss-made Audemars Piguet watch costing RM174,000.

Tengku Muhammad Fakhry also claimed that throughout their marriage from August 26 2008, Manohara or her mother had borrowed a further sum of RM634,250.

He said they understood the total of RM972,750 was a debt that had to be repaid.

He also said that, to date, the sum had yet to be settled and asked the court to order Manohara to pay the sum borrowed, costs and other relief deemed fit by the court.

At the lower Syariah court, Zainul Rijal and Abdul Halim also filed a summon on behalf of Tengku Muhammad Fakhry to demand the return of Manohara who had yet to come back to their client although an ultimatum to do so had been issued.

In his affidavit, he said that in the earlier stages of his marriage to Manohara, everything was blissful until Daisy started slandering him in the Indonesian media and that affected his relationship with Manohara.

He added that on May 31, 2009, while the couple was in Singapore keeping vigil on his father Sultan Ismail Petra Sultan Yahya Petra who was suffering from a heart ailment, Manohara left for Indonesia on her own accord.

He further said Manohara did not return to him and, in fact, had slandered him in the Indonesian media.

Tengku Muhammad Fakhry said Manohara’s action had tarnished his name and the Kelantan Royal Palace in the eyes of the Kelantanese subjects.

He claimed that that he issued an ultimatum to Manohara on June 26, through the local media, to return to his side and reconcile by Jul 2 and carry out her responsibility as a wife under the Syariah laws.

He added that Manohara was duly informed of the ultimatum via the media but she failed to comply and he asked the court to issue an order to reconcile or deem her to be nusyuz (recalcitrant).

He also claimed costs and other relief deemed fit by the court.

Tengku Muhammad Fakhry’s counsels also made an application for a notice of interlocutory at the Lower Syariah court to be served to Manohara via hand, Malaysian Embassy in Indonesia, advertisement in Indonesian newspapers or via post.

Abu Bakar who received the notice allowed the application.

The case is set for mention on Aug 2.


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Over to NZ news ... of closer impact to life for me Waitakere City (i.e. West Auckland) ..

Hearings for Super City under way

4:00AM Monday Jul 06, 2009
By Bernard Orsman

In May last year, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance began public hearings in the concert chamber at the Pukekohe War Memorial Town Hall.

Fourteen months later, the Barry Court Accommodation and Event Centre in Parnell is the backdrop today for the start of public hearings on the Government's Super City plan - a super Auckland Council, a super mayor, 20 to 30 virtually powerless local boards and no place for Maori at the table.

Last year, former High Court judge Peter Salmon, QC, and fellow commissioners, former public servant Dame Margaret Bazley and David Shand, began listening to more than 550 ratepayers, interested parties and councils on ways to improve Auckland's local governance.

They concluded regional governance was weak and fragmented, community engagement poor and delivered a package of reforms in March.

The Government picked up on a Super City and mayor elected at large, but rejected recommendations for six local councils under the main body and plans for three Maori seats.

Instead, it went for 20 to 30 local boards which Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey noted would be limited to "brothels, dogs and graffiti".

The weak functions and powers for the local boards has sparked criticism. Also under fire are plans for 12 ward councillors and eight councillors elected at large on the Auckland Council. There are concerns the ward councillors will represent more than 100,000 people each and the at-large system will favour political blocs and those who can afford city-wide campaigns.

Rural-focused Rodney and Papakura districts councils want to be left out of the Super City.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said it is a given the local boards will get more power. The thinking in Government circles is how much power can be handed to local boards without undermining the big picture focus of the Auckland Council.

On the other contentious issues, Mr Hide says the Government will be interested to hear the arguments of the 800 or so submitters expected to have a say over the next four weeks.

The Act leader and his National Party coalition partner are philosophically opposed to Maori seats. Whether the Maori Party and submitters can achieve a quota of Maori seats is a big political hurdle.

The Government plan - recommended by the royal commission - to have a mix of ward-based and councillors elected at large on the Auckland Council is driven by the parochialism and factionalism that has long bedevilled Auckland for so long. The fear being that ward councillors will make a song and dance about their patch at the expense of the region.

Labour leader Phil Goff, whose MPs have been milking criticism of the shake-up, will be in attendance today and is confident community opposition will force the Government to back down on some aspects of the package.

Mr Goff is scathing of the Government's handling of the Super City and says the select committee process is a belated chance for Aucklanders to have a say.

"Labour has always supported the idea of a unitary council, but supports stronger, more effective second-tier representation and all councillors elected by wards," he said.

"It also supports Maori seats."


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And back to Malaysia .... 2nd most viewed story in the star online ...

Sunday July 5, 2009

‘Ray of hope’ that turned out to be a nightmare


KUALA KUBU BARU: We were hit by the stench of faeces and urine the minute we walked into the men’s block at Taman Sinar Harapan located in a secluded area of the town here.

Mr A, a volunteer from a non-governmental organisation who goes to the home every Sunday to clean and feed the residents, opened the locked door at the back of the block and we were stunned by what greeted us.

About 30 stark naked men were inside the room, either lying down or sitting on the wet marble floor. In one part of the room, we saw a pool of blood, still fresh and red, on the floor.

Half of the men were locked behind bars like animals in a zoo while the others were able to move about in the front portion of the room. Those in the “jail cells” were segregated so that they would not harm their non-violent roommates.

“Those who are accidentally placed inside the cells with the more aggressive residents would be beaten or abused,” the volunteer revealed.

Most of them looked no older than 50 but they were just skin and bones and some looked extremely frail. One resident was lying on his stomach on a wooden bench and had passed motion; we almost gagged at its stench.

Fans were installed inside the room for better ventilation but that was the only luxury the men had. There were no beds, no toilets and not even blankets to keep them warm on cold rainy nights.

Those who were not in the “jail cells” were given beds but without any mattresses or pillows. They were, however, chained to the bed frame with metal chains and a steel lock.

We were told by a volunteer that they were restricted to prevent them from hurting themselves. The volunteer also shared that the men were not given any clothing as they had used their shirts to strangle themselves or the other men in the past.

After a briefing by Mr A, we got down to work. We were put in charge of spreading mats and towels on the floor.

The volunteers were all given different tasks. A group of about six or seven men were in charge of bathing the locked-up residents, the women were in charge of preparing the food and feeding the residents while the rest (there were two children in the volunteer group) were in charge of cleaning up the place and washing their clothes.

The residents were hosed down with water and soap by volunteers dressed in construction boots and a water proof apron.

After that, the male volunteers carried the naked men to the front part of the building for us to towel dry them.

After sensing our discomfort, a female volunteer nearby said: “It’s okay, they’re just like babies, you know, they don’t know anything.”

We proceeded to wipe them dry one by one before we were told to feed them with the yong tau foo bought by one of the volunteers.

The food was mashed to bits and mixed with soup to minimise the need to chew and to make feeding an easier task. so that the residents only needed to swallow them.

As we fed them, some ate obediently while others were greedy and stuffed their hands inside the bowls to take out larger portions of the food.

Some volunteers reprimanded the greedy ones who crawled towards the table to help themselves to more food. We noticed that some of the mentally disabled residents liked to hit themselves repeatedly. When we tried to stop them, they would fight back or just hit their body against the floor.

Mid-way through feeding, some volunteers suddenly rushed over to a young resident whose head was bleeding profusely. We were told that the boy had slipped and fell.

The volunteers immediately dressed him up, put him on a wheelchair and sent him to a hospital nearby.

After mopping the floor, we took a break and noticed that the residents were taken back into their cells to be locked up again.

It was nearly 4pm when everything was done. The residents were all bathed, fed and the place was clean enough.

We asked the volunteers what would happen to the residents on weekdays when the group was not there to offer their help.

The naked truth: Some of the inmates who were caged up in the home.

“The caretakers don’t do much. There are only two of them while there are 50 residents. If it’s time to feed them, they would just walk one round with a bowl and feed whoever wants to eat. Those who don’t are left alone,” answered a volunteer.

She divulged that another charitable organisation had brought food for the residents but it was thrown away. “When the group asked why they did such a thing, the caretakers said that the residents would create a bigger mess if there was more food because they would defecate more often,” she said.

After the voluntary group had left, we stayed back to check out the other blocks.

The women’s wing looked cleaner and did not smell as bad but a handful of the women were seen walking about in the nude.

The two caretakers stationed at the block were seen watching TV and chatting.

We noticed that the women’s clothes were laid out to dry on a dirty floor caked with fungus. We walked over to the children’s block which seemed to be the best kept part of the home. It was decorated and there were proper beds. But the children were curiously quiet.

A volunteer claimed that the children were fed with cough syrup so that they would be sleepy and docile.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Grace@work eCommentary: A Big Deal

AMEN!!!! Another good piece from Soo Inn and some very interesting facts from research given like ... Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North
Carolina, Greensboro. "There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage,
but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on
our psychological well-being than family relationships."

But then again when I thuink about it ... it is not that surprising ... enjoy the read.

And Soo Inn, thanks for the friendship!

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GRACE@WORK MAIL 27/09
July 3rd, 2009 Edition.
This ecommentary is sent out free but your donations help this ministry in
its commitment to bring truth to life. Details below.
(Grace@Work Mail is a ministry of Graceworks: www.graceworks.com.sg)



Commentary: A Big Deal
By Soo-Inn Tan


"Spiritual friendship Is friendship that is rooted in Christ, for the purpose of
growing in Christ."


"What is the vision of Graceworks?"
Often folks would ask Bernice or myself about the nature of our work and we
usually reply by stating our mission: "to promote spiritual friendship in
church and society." The response to this is usually a quizzical look and more
questions. Which is really sad because, while the world at large is awakening
to the importance of friendship, many in the church still do not get it. Note
the following:

1. In their book, Loneliness, John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick report:

[In 1985, when researchers asked a cross-section of the American people,
"How many confidants do you have?" the most common response to the
question was three. In 2004, when researchers asked again, the most
common response --- made by twenty-five percent of the respondents --- was
none. One quarter of these twenty-first-century Americans said they had no
one at all with whom to talk openly and intimately.

Also published in 2004, a joint study by the World Health Organization and
researchers from Harvard University found almost ten percent of Americans
suffer from depression or bipolar disorder. They also found that binge eating
and drinking are up, and that our children are medicated for depression and
attention deficit disorder to an alarming degree. (Loneliness, New York, NY:
W.W. Norton & Co., 2008, 247)]

2. For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been following the lives of 268
men who entered college in the late 1930s, to try to find out if there is a
formula --- "some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation --- for a
good life." When George Valliant, the head of the study was asked what he
learnt from the study, this was his reply:

["It is social aptitude ... not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that
leads to successful ageing." Warm connections are necessary ... "That the
only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people."
(Joshua Wolf Shenk, "What Makes Us Happy?" The Atlantic, June 2009, 46)]


3. In her article, "What Are Friends For? A Longer Life," Tara Parker-Pope
writes:

[In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books
or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help
them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong
life: their friends. Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the
importance of friends and social networks in overall health.

A 10 -year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of
friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period ..."In
general, the role of friendship in our lives isn't well appreciated," said
Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North
Carolina, Greensboro. "There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage,
but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on
our psychological well-being than family relationships." (NYTimes.com, April
20, 2009)]

I could quote many more sources, but the above three should suffice to
establish the point that we need our friends to be truly alive. Or to quote my
favourite Christian book on friendship,

[... friendship is basic to our nature, a fundamental need at the heart of what
it means to be human ... A desire for friendship is one of our most basic and
enduring inclinations, as inescapable as our need for food, drink, clothing,
and shelter. (Paul J. Wadell, Becoming Friends, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos
Press, 2002, 111)]

The growing appreciation of the importance friendship may help us to better
understand why Jesus tells His disciples He is their friend. Biblical scholars
have long noted that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament
expectations that the Messiah would be prophet, priest, and king. In the
gospel of John we find that our prophet, priest and king, is also our friend
(John 15:9-17). Our need for friends point us to our need for our ultimate
friend --- Jesus. Friendship is a weighty matter.

We would think that a church who follows a Lord who is a Friend would
understand the importance of friendship. Unfortunately this is not the case.
This morning I received an email from a brother in Christ. This is part of
what he wrote:

[I feel that church is so unreal and plastic. I'm sick and tired of church.
People are just moving in and rushing out. Most of the people I talk to are
either the clergy or the younger kids. At this point of time, I'm really sick of
church and ministry. I'm feeling so lonely in church now. Been there for such
a long time, but no deep friendships formed. My closest friends are mostly
outside the church.]

I will not tell you who wrote to me. I don't need to. He speaks for many in
our churches.

Many in our churches are lonely and friendless. Most churches I know are
absorbed with getting their doctrines right and/or getting things done for
God. Few are concerned with ensuring that their people are loved and valued
for whom they are, not just for what they can do. Few ensure that their people
experience the friendship of Christ through the friendship of their brothers
and sisters.

Everyday, Bernice and I find fresh reminders of why the Lord has called us
into a ministry of promoting friendship. Perhaps our vision can be: "Everyone
having at least two close friends to share their life with." And if we are
followers of Jesus, then "every follower of Jesus having at least two close
friends in Christ with whom to follow Him." Many still don't understand what
we are trying to do. Or they are bemused by the fact that we make such a
big deal about friendship. We make a big deal about friendship because God
does. We make a big deal about friendship because we need friends for life.